By BRIAN JENNINGS
A four-game winning streak this past week shot the Bristol Blues (12-8) into first place in the West Division.
After a two-day break, the Blues hit the road for Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass. on Tuesday, June 23 where they suffered their only loss of the week to the North Shore Navigators (13-7), 5-2. The Navigators scored two runs in the second and three in the eighth.
Ryan Costello hit a solo home run (second on the season) in the fifth and Zach Scott scored Christian Wingham on a base hit in the eighth inning. Robert Schryver went 2-for-3 with a double as part of the Blues’ eight hits.
George Lund was given the no decision, going six innings with three strikeouts, allowing four hits, two earned runs, and a walk. Ryan Lauria (0-1) was given the loss, going an inning and allowing three walks, three earned runs, and two hits.
The next night, the Blues traveled to Doyle Field in Leominster, Mass. where they defeated the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs (6-13), 6-3, in the first of their four-game winning streak.
The Blues got out to a 5-2 lead after scoring a run in each of the first five innings off of RBIs by Zach Scott (scored Stephen Octave on double in second and Ryan Rinsky on single in fifth) and Rinsky (scored Gerrad Rohan on single in third). Ryan Costello scored on wild pitches in the first and fourth inning.
The Dirt Dawgs scored a run in the seventh, but the Blues added another run in the ninth for insurance to hold them off and get the win.
Rohan went 4-for-5 with two runs and a double as a part of the Blues’ 13 hits. Dominic LoBrutto went four and two-thirds on the mound after throwing two strikeouts and allowing eight hits, two earned runs, and a walk. Bristol’s Michael Nocera (1-0) relieved LoBrutto and got the win by going an inning and a third, allowing three hits and a run. Ty Robinson (third save) was credited with the save, going two innings with three strikeouts.
The Blues continued the streak when they returned home on Thursday night in their second straight win against the Dirt Dawgs, 3-2.
Tyler Packanik only had two of the Blues’ six hits in the game, but his two hits were the difference makers of the game. Down 1-0 in the fifth with two men and one out, Packanik got the Blues going with their first score of the game by hitting in Jaime Timothy on a base hit. Later in the inning, Davis Strong scored Tyler Roberts on a sacrifice fly to center field to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.
With the scored knotted up at 2-2 in the eighth, Packanik struck again. With two men on and two outs, he gave the Blues the go-ahead winning run by scoring Rinsky on a base hit.
“I’ve been struggling recently at the plate and didn’t want to let the team down,” said Packanik. “I’m going to try and come up with a big hit here for the team. We’ve played these guys close every game and we wanted to take the series from them so far. That gave us a big win there.”
Packanik received some advice from his teammate, Griffin Garabedian, about the Dirt Dawgs pitcher.
“Griffin knows him and told me that he’s just going to try and beat you and overpower you, said Packanik. “Me being a little guy with a 3-1 count, he’s not going to throw me any junk. He’s going to throw me a fastball inside. I knew it was coming and when he threw it, my eyes lit up and I just said to myself, ‘Perfect.’”
Blues’ manager Barry Lyons said there’s no doubt that he sees Packanik as a leader on the team.
“His demeanor, actions, and energy are very evident and have been since we got here,” said Lyons. “I like the way he goes about his business. He plays hard and scrappy.”
Southington’s Kyle Dube started the game on the mound for the Blues going five innings with three strikeouts, allowing four hits, an earned run, and a walk. Dube has been working on his changeup a lot and was the go-to pitch for him in the game.
“I got into a lot of deep counts, which hurt, but I didn’t pitch bad,” said Dube. “Getting into deep counts is tough. I missed on a couple close pitches, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It definitely was a battle. The bases got loaded in the fourth inning and Austin made a good play by throwing it to Ryan to get out of the inning with a double play. It’s definitely what I’ve been taught; limit damage, avoid the big innings, and you’ll be successful.”
Robert Paccione (1-0) picked up the win, going one and a third with a strikeout and allowing a hit and a walk.
Paccione has come a long way after being forced to take the spring season off, due to an arm injury. Coming into the game, Paccione had only allowed just one run through 12.2 innings with an ERA of 0.71.
“Robert has done a tremendous job,” said Lyons. “We weren’t sure what to expect from him, not having played this past spring. He’s come in and worked hard. Every time we give him the ball, he’s gotten the job done in very fine fashion. We have a lot of confidence in him and he’s proven himself that he loves to be in the game when the game’s on the line. He’s proved himself and we’re just going to keep riding him, giving him that opportunity to close out games for us. So far, he’s just been pretty much awesome.”
The next night, the Blues dethroned the Torrington Titans (9-9) from their first place spot in the West Division with a 5-2 road win at Fuessenich Park in Torrington.
With two men on and two outs in the second, Christian Whigham put the Blues on the board first with a RBI double that scored Austin Chauvin and Robert Schryver. From there, the Blues scored a run in the fifth, sixth, and seventh inning off of RBI by Roberts (double), Chauvin (first solo homerun of season), and Strong (single). Rinsky went 3-for-4 with a run as part of the Blues’ 11 hits.
Tony Terzi (1-1) went six innings with eight strikeouts and allowed just three hits and two walks. Robinson (fourth save) was credited with the save going an inning and a third with three strikeouts.
The Blues ended the week on Saturday with a 3-2 win against the Worcester Bravehearts (6-14) at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass.
The Bravehearts jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the third, but the Blues were able to put up a run in the fourth, fifth, and seventh inning. Rohan scored Strong on a base hit in the fourth, Southington’s Liam Scafariello scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, and Timothy scored on an error by the second baseman in the seventh.
Scafariello went 2-for-3 with a run and a stolen base. The Blues had five different pitchers on the mound in the game.
Tim Cate started the game and went three and a third with five strikeouts, allowing five hits, two earned runs, and two walks. Riley Streit relieved Cate and went an inning and a third with three strikeouts, allowing two walks and a hit. Nocera (2-0) picked up the win and went two innings with a strikeout, allowing just a hit and a walk. Paccione (third save) closed out the game and got the save with a strikeout.
Sunday’s home game against the Titans was cancelled due to weather. The Blues currently sit atop the West Division a game and a half ahead of the Pittsfield Suns (10-9) and two games ahead of the Titans.
“The spring training part of the season is over. We know each other, and we know what to expect,” said Lyons. “I’ve got a pretty good idea of all the guys as a whole. We’re expecting to come out everyday, perform, play winning baseball, and give the best effort…We have a good group of young men and they’re passionate about baseball.
The Blues will look to go for five in a row when they take on the Marthas Vineyard Sharks (12-6) at home this week.
“I’m confident that our entire team is starting to come together in a way that’s going to lead to a very fun and exciting summer,” said Lyons.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.